Can Simpsons Make the Big Screen Leap?

After 18 years, one of America's most irreverent animated families is finally graduating from the small screen. The Simpsons Movie hits theaters this week.

As you'd expect, there's been plenty of hype, most of it coming from die-hard Simpsons fans. But the actual plot of the film has been a closely guarded secret... until now. After a few advance screenings, the storyline for our wide-eyed yellow friends has leaked all over the Internet.

Without giving too much away, Homer does something boneheaded that causes a national stir and threatens to destroy Springfield; the family goes on the run to Alaska; Lisa falls in love; and Bart thinks about being adopted by the Flanders.

Not that exposing the plot will deter anyone from seeing the film. I mean... it's not like they've revealed the ending to the latest Harry Potter book. (I hear Harry gets eaten by a Unicorn!) But so far, reviews are mixed, and there are only a handful of raves for The Simpsons long-awaited big screen debut.

The general theme seems to be that it's an extended version of what we see each week in our living rooms. Some critics say that's enough, since The Simpsons is so brilliant, even two hours of a run-of-the-mill episode is better than most of what we see at the movies these days.

I disagree. Between the sky-high ticket prices and long lines I endure for a feature film, I expect a movie to be more than just a longer (and larger) version of what I can watch for free in the comfort of my own home. Two hours of the same old, same old won't cut it.

If an animated TV show hopes to succeed at the movies, it has to provide something more. Other animated shows that have made the jump have learned this.

Other animated shows that have made the leap:

Movie: South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut

Did it work?: Yes

Why/Why Not: Despite what the title implies, the movie was more than just "bigger" and "longer." For starters, the South Park team threw everyone for a loop by making it a musical. Brilliant! Also, because it's on cable, South Park is a little edgier than The Simpsons, especially in terms of language, and jumping to the movies left them free to spew as much profanity as possible. The plot incorporated just about every character that had been on the show up until that point and a few new ones too. (To be fair, The Simpsons Movie promises to do the same thing.) Plus, we finally got to see what Kenny looked like.

Movie: Beavis & Butt-Head Do America

Did it work?: Sort of

Why/Why Not: Creator Mike Judge finally took his dopey duo off their couch and gave us a cross-country adventure with guest voices including Bruce Willis, Demi Moore and Robert Stack. But ultimately, this movie wasn't much more than a two hour episode. Although we did get more of the Great Cornholio, and learn who B&B's fathers are.

Movie: Scooby Doo

Did it work?: No

Why/Why Not: Not a great direct comparison since they turned this cartoon into a live-action film, but still a good illustration. But aside from animating Scooby onto the screen, this movie didn't offer anything different from the TV show. Kids might have liked it, but the movie

should have resonated with older generation that grew up watching Scooby Doo.

Movie: He-Man and the Masters of the Universe

Did it work?: Uggh!

Why/Why Not: Okay, I know it's not really fair to even put this movie in the same category as The Simpsons or South Park, but I couldn't resist. Quite possibly the worst animated TV show ever turned into a movie.

In the end, of course, it doesn't really matter. True blue Simpsons fans are going to love the movie, whether it's the most original film in decades or just a 120 minute rehash of the last 18 years. But if you ask me, 18 years is a long time to wait. I sure hope Matt Groening and crew have kept a little something up their sleeves this whole time.

Ethan Morris: "Not always right, but never in doubt." Go ahead and write me.